Two weeks ago, I blogged about the disturbing number of threats that have been received by Democrats in Congress who voted for health care reform and called on Republicans to soften some of their heated rhetoric about the legislation. Simultaneously, I highlighted the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller, which appeared to endorse the National Rifle Association's view that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of "preventing government tyranny."
This unfortunate combination of messages from the right wing of American politics -- that our current government is oppressive and the Constitution authorizes insurrection -- is a dangerous mix that has already led to serious violence. And in a case of truly bad timing -- as we receive confirmation that serious threats to Members of Congress increased threefold over the last quarter -- pro-gun activists are scheduled to descend on our nation's capital on April 19 for a pair of rallies that will aggressively trumpet this toxic ideology.
The two events -- the "Second Amendment March" at the Washington Monument on the National Mall and the "Restore the Constitution Open-Carry Rally" at Fort Hunt National Park in Virginia -- will feature a number of speakers who are current and former militia leaders or who have ties to extreme, anti-government groups. Time and time again, they have made it clear they believe the Obama administration is "an oppressive, totalitarian government" and their guns enable them to do something about it.
The organizer of the Second Amendment March in the District of Columbia is Skip Coryell, a self-employed publisher who brags that he "cut [his] Second Amendment teeth with [NRA Board Member] Ted Nugent." When asked why he organized the march, Coryell replied that he wants to send the following message to our elected officials: "You better think twice if you want to go up against the Second Amendment." Decrying the policies of the current Democratic administration and Congress, Coryell explains, "When the government ignores the First Amendment, it is time to rattle the Second Amendment sabers ... So long as our elected officials believe we will rise up and overthrow them under certain conditions, then they will not allow those conditions to occur. Their jobs and their very lives depend on it." Coryell is not shy in articulating this threat. "I spent six years in the Marine Corps. I know how to fight. It's the last resort, if we have to, we'll do it," he said. "If the present course of human events don't change, then we will have another bloody revolution."
The man who organized the Restore the Constitution rally in Virginia, Daniel Almond, has made it clear that it matters not at all if a majority of Americans agree with our current government's policies. Decrying "the statists in all three branches of government who are bringing totalitarian socialism to America," Almond explains, "I'm not really here to try and court majority opinion and win 51% support for my cause...even if that were necessary." Almond instead calls for "bold new steps" from those who acknowledge the Second Amendment as a bulwark against this "tyranny of the majority." Specifically, Almond is inviting attendees to openly carry loaded firearms at the rally in Virginia (where such behavior is legal). There, they can "step up to the edge" of Washington, D.C. at Gravelly Point to show government officials that they "will not stand by idly while their corruption, dishonesty, and outright violations of our country's founding principles destroy the American Republic."
The choice of date for the rallies is significant, as April 19 marks the anniversary of the first shots being fired in the American Revolution at the Battle of Lexington/Concord, the fiery conclusion to the 1993 siege at Waco, and the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh.
It is therefore appropriate that Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, has been selected at the lead-off speaker at the Second Amendment March. Pratt was one of those who attended the "Rocky Mountain Rendezvous" in 1992, a meeting that included Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, followers of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion, and other extremists that marked "the birth of the modern militia movement." His sympathies are clear: "AR-15's and other semi-automatic rifles should be in the hands of as many Americans as want them precisely because they make anti-gunners in general and many politicians in particular nervous. That was the express purpose the founders had in mind for the Second Amendment. When a government no longer fears the people, atrocities become possible such as the murder of members of Randy Weaver's family by U.S. Marshals and FBI agents. Emboldened by the lack of resistance when murdering women and children in Idaho, the Feds moved to Waco, Texas and slaughtered nearly 100 people."
Then there is Mike Vanderboegh, a former Alabama militia leader who will be speaking at the Fort Hunt rally. Vanderboegh recently made national headlines when he incited those unhappy with health care reform legislation to vandalize Democratic offices across the country. Speaking about the April 19 rally, Vanderboegh said, "The enemies of the Founders' Republic believe that we will have come to threaten them. I suppose in a way that is true, if you are talking about trying to dissuade them from future tyrannical conduct ... When it is done, when we have come, made our point, and left, the message will be indelible--tyranny stops here, or else ... It may be our last chance to convince them without violence that we are done backing up."
But perhaps most disturbing is the fact that Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) will speak at the D.C. event. That Broun is no fan of the Obama agenda is well-known, and unproblematic. But by giving his tacit endorsement to a group of individuals who have openly stated they will engage in "bloody revolution" against our government if their demands are not met, the Congressman is acting to weaken and discredit the very institution through which he serves his constituents. He should withdraw from the event immediately.
Our elected officials must be united in denouncing the use of political violence as a tool to overturn the results of the democratic process. Such violence was decried by our Founders, and we should see it as the same grave threat to the rule of law as they did.
Finally, the NRA, whom Coryell thanked for "taking a leadership position" in promoting the Second Amendment March, should make it clear that -- no matter what their feelings about firearm regulation -- there is no constitutional right to insurrection.
[For more information about the April 19 rallies, visit www.csgv.org/april19]